42 delighted men received 3G phones from Transient Workers Count Too 21 March 2017. It was the first of a series of phone distribution events that has been planned in advance of the cessation of 2G signals throughout Singapore on 1 April 2017.
The remaining batches of eligible migrant workers will be getting their 3G phones over the next few days.
The 2G closure was announced about a year ago, and would mean that workers still holding 2G phones would lose connectivity. Contact with their families would be broken. They would be unable to communicate with hospitals, TWC2 and the Ministry of Manpower. TWC2’s clients are with us for a reason: they are in difficulty because of work injury, salary non-payment or other issues, and they need to be able to access these various services.
But without income, they would not be able to afford new 3G phones.
TWC2 launched a donation campaign in September 2016, looking for donations of secondhand 3G phones. Alternatively, wellwishers could also make monetary donations. It was a huge success. Approximately 350 secondhand phones and $11,458 came in. On both measures, they exceeded our hopes. We had hoped to be able to have 200 phones — either by way of donated secondhand devices or through cash donations enabling us to buy them. This was based on our estimate in the 3rd quarter of 2016 that about one in five workers under TWC2’s care were still using 2G phones. With perhaps 1,000 workers under our care at any given time, we reckoned that there would be need for around 200 replacement 3G phones come the switch-off date.
Despite the overwhelming response, not all the donated phones were in good condition. Some had cracked screens and others had quite noticeable defects. In all, nearly half of the donated phones were of a condition that might be embarrassing to give out to workers. Moreover, quite a number came without chargers. We then used the donated money to buy extra chargers and 100 more Lenovo phones. Altogether then, we had nearly 300 new or good-condition sets to give out.
As the signal cut-off date approached, TWC2 volunteers began registering (starting mid February 2017) workers from our case pool for the phone distribution. We were careful to ensure that only workers who had 2G phones were eligible. To-date, about 180 workers have been registered, but we expect a few more to come forward as the cessation date comes close [update: over 70 more have come forward.]
The first phone distribution event was held at a restaurant in Little India. We had reporters and photographers from all the main media organisations. Due to the smallness of the space and our wish not to have too lengthy an event, we decided to limit the number of workers to about 40.
Even so, the level of excitement was high. The workers made it a point to show up early and at moments, the issuing of “lucky draw” numbers became a little loud. It wasn’t really a lucky draw because in this case, every worker asked to come this evening would assuredly get a 3G phone. However, since the donated phones were of different brands and model types, and in varying conditions, we felt it would be fairer to leave it to luck as to which worker would get which phone.
The event was not just one of giving out phones. There was also dinner, and volunteers were on hand for simple tech support. To encourage everyone to learn about the phones’ camera features, we held a simple contest with three prizes (IDD calling cards) for best pictures.
Media reports the following day (22 March 2017) would give a good account of how the event went and how well-received the exercise was.
Lots of people came together to make this campaign a success. TWC2 thanks them all. We had volunteers putting in time and effort to make the three campaign videos (see below) and manage the social media launch; we had staff and volunteers receiving, cleaning, checking and packing the donated phones; we had more volunteers helping out with registration and organising the distribution events.
But above all, we had the donors — many of whom took time off to make a special trip to our office with their old phones. Some of them even passed the word among their friends and office mates to gather additional phones. Equally, we thank those who gave generously through our cash donation window.
Of course, TWC2 is not only about phones. We provide meals, medical and transport subsidies, and shelter to foreign workers in need. Our continuing programmes serve nearly 2,000 workers a year — workers who are out of work and without income due to injury or salary non-payment, among a host of issues. We are always grateful for donations. Various easy ways to help are described on this page: www.twc2.org.sg/getinvolved/donate/
For the record, here are the three campaign videos produced in 3rd quarter 2016 by our volunteers: